Annual program recognizes outstanding people and organizations advancing food safety

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. – NSF International, a global leader in food safety, is honored to announce the winners of the 2011 NSF Food Safety Leadership Awards.  The awards will be presented Wednesday, April 20 at 9:30 a.m. (EST) during the 2011 Food Safety Summit held at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center.

The NSF International Food Safety Leadership Awards program recognizes those individuals and organizations that have made a real and lasting impact on food safety. NSF, a global public health and safety organization, created the awards program in 2004 to encourage the development of educational programs, processes or technologies that help advance global food safety. 

Each year, NSF International seeks nominations from leaders throughout the food safety community and convenes an independent panel of food safety experts from academia, industry and the regulatory community to select the winners.  Nominations are evaluated based on creativity, innovation, design and the contributions made to the advancement of food safety.

This year, five individuals or organizations will be recognized for their contributions to food safety in the following categories:  Education, Training, System Improvement, Technology Breakthroughs, and the new Trendsetter award for first-year programs already making an impact. Additionally, three people will be honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards.

The 2011 NSF Food Safety Leadership Award Winners are:

NSF Food Safety Leadership Education Award

Brenda Halbrook, M.S., R.D.
Director, Office of Food Safety, USDA, Food and Nutrition Service
Brenda Halbrook developed the Office of Food Safety (OFS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service with the vision to eliminate all food safety hazards in foods provided through the USDA nutrition assistance programs.  Under her direction, OFS has implemented numerous national food safety education programs that successfully improved food safety and nutrition in schools. These programs include: Produce Safety University, an immersion course for school nutrition program leaders on best practices for handling fresh produce; a two-year research study to establish best practices for cooling in schools; The Stomach Bug Book, designed to educate school foodservice professionals on norovirus prevention, and food allergy workshops and podcasts. Under Ms. Halbrook, food safety education initiatives have reached school foodservice personnel through multiple channels including the distribution of 46,350 copies of Best Practices for Handling Fresh Produce in Schools, 60,000 stomach bug books and educating thousands through webinars and digital resources.

NSF Food Safety Leadership Training Award

Publix Super Markets Food Safety
Publix Super Markets is committed to implementing successful food safety initiatives and education programs at the retail level.  The organization distinguished itself as a leader in retail food safety more than a decade ago when it implemented a food safety initiative requiring all staff -- including those directly and indirectly involved with food handling -- to earn Food Manager Certification. Publix also partnered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the FDA Oral Food Safety project, and their retail-focused food safety behavior program, which gave the FDA greater understanding of the program’s impact. It has been recognized as a best-in-class idea by several organizations, including the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) and the Conference for Food Protection (CFP). Publix also partnered with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) to develop FMI’s SafeMark training program for all supermarket employees and a food safety behavior program called Prevention Plus. These training programs resulted in a 32 percent decrease in cleaning and sanitation observations and a 26 percent decrease in violations for personal hygiene over the last year in all 1,035 Publix Super Markets.  Publix also has educated 3,500 associates who received Food Manager Certification and 48,000 new associates on proper food safety handling techniques.

NSF Food Safety Leadership System Improvement Award

David Ludwig, M.P.H., R.S., R.E.H.S.
Manager, Environmental Health Division, Maricopa County, AZ Environmental Services Department
The Maricopa County Environmental Health Division creates and maintains a fair, transparent restaurant inspection system.  Recognizing that poor hand hygiene remains one of the major causes of foodborne illness, Maricopa County Environmental Health Division Manager David Ludwig developed a unique motivation system that improves food workers’ handwashing behaviors at foodservice establishments.   Food handling professionals must maintain a minimum handwashing frequency to demonstrate their understanding of the risk of unwashed hands. The program also includes protocols of compliance and a system that provides for day-to-day documentation of handwashing.  In addition to educating the foodservice worker, the program creates an incentive for the establishment’s owner/operator, helping them lower the risk of a foodborne outbreak.  The employee handwashing documentation is used by health inspectors to inspect restaurants with a good health record that have an Employee Health Policy and conduct handwashing training with every employee.  This system resulted in more effective training and verification of employee’s handwashing actions.  Mr. Ludwig’s unique handwashing motivation system addresses one of the major causes of foodborne outbreaks.  Started in 2002, the program doubled the handwashing rate and serves as a model to over 250 restaurant owners in Maricopa County.

NSF Food Safety Leadership Technology Breakthrough Award

National Pasteurized Eggs, Inc.
The availability of Salmonella-free, pasteurized in-shell eggs in the foodservice supply chain is vital to protecting public health, especially for those serving higher risk individuals such as seniors, children, and pregnant women.  While a precision, in-shell pasteurization technique had been available for over a decade, the product was not reaching the marketplace and foodservice operations, especially those serving highly susceptible populations.  National Pasteurized Eggs, Inc. (NPE) developed an innovative system to pasteurize raw shell eggs to eliminate Salmonella and avian viruses.  The goal was to provide consumers with a fresher and safer alternative for raw shell eggs.  Over the last seven years, NPE has increased production of the safe egg category by more than 50 percent, making pasteurized shell eggs a viable option for many hospitals and healthcare facilities whose patients are more susceptible to illness, as well as restaurants concerned about Salmonella.  To create greater awareness of safe eggs as a category, NPE launched an industry education campaign educating state environmental health professionals, federal regulators, trainers, food industry chains and healthcare groups on effective Salmonella hazard control. In addition to ongoing food safety training, NPE also is applying and licensing its technology to egg producers in other nations. NPE’s goal is to continue to make pasteurized shell eggs economically and logistically feasible for foodservice operations, and today more than 200 foodservice distributors provide a pasteurized shell egg option. 

NSF Food Safety Leadership Trendsetter Award

International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI)
More than 90 percent of food safety inspections in U.S. food manufacturing and distribution establishments are carried out by state and local agencies. The International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI) established the first-ever national food protection training curriculum to help assure inspector competency and consistency in meeting established U.S. federal food safety standards across state and local jurisdictions. A collaborative effort between food regulatory and public health officials, IFPTI is dedicated to building and administering the training infrastructure for the U.S.-integrated food safety system.  In their first year, IFPTI trained 1,138 food protection officials and developed a three-week food protection Fellowship Training program. The program formed a national workgroup with representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FDA, USDA, Department of Human Services (DHS) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop an attribution model for linking training efforts to foodborne illness reduction.  IFPTI also joined forces with the National Center for Biomedical Research & Training at Louisiana State University and the FDA, which served as the hub for a training network for regulatory and public health officials, presenting at over 20 conferences.

NSF Food Safety Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award for Consumer Advocacy Food Safety

Nancy Donley
President,
STOP Foodborne Illness (formerly known as Safe Tables Our Priority)
Nancy Donley has dedicated her life to improving food safety and consumer awareness of foodborne illness following the death of her only child to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (caused by eating E. coli O157:H7-contaminated ground beef).  Ms. Donley’s impact has been far reaching with one objective: others should not suffer needlessly from a foodborne illness in the way that she, her family and friends have. Donley helped create S.T.O.P. (Safe Tables our Priority), a national, grassroots, non-profit organization.  Now known as STOP Foodborne Illness, the organization has been at the forefront of food safety reform, playing an integral role in pushing for the new roles for mandatory Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) systems that the USDA issued in 1996 for meat and poultry.  This action significantly decreased incidences of E. coli O157:H7, as evidenced by FoodNet data.  Through policy advocacy, building awareness of foodborne risk, and helping other victims of foodborne illness, she has made a tremendous difference in the lives of many and a great contribution to advance food safety.  As STOP Foodborne Illness's president and spokesperson, Ms. Donley has provided congressional testimony and delivered keynote addresses at significant conferences to advocate for stronger food safety policies and to raise public awareness of foodborne illness. In 2008 Ms. Donley was invited to speak at the World Health Organization in Geneva, and in 2010, she was appointed to the USDA's National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection by the Secretary of Agriculture.  Among the many in Congress impacted by Ms. Donley’s advocacy is Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) whom he credits as his inspiration for sponsoring the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act, signed into law this January.  In a letter to NSF endorsing Donley’s nomination, Sen. Durbin wrote, “Nancy Donley has left an indelible mark on food safety in this country.  Her courage is a testament to what can be achieved when an individual chooses to turn a tragedy into an instrument for profound change.”  For her tremendous impact in advocating for stronger food safety policies and raising the public’s awareness of foodborne illness, NSF is proud to award Nancy Donley an NSF Food Safety Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award.

NSF Food Safety Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Health Food Safety

Donald Sharp, M.D., DTM&H
Captain, United States Public Health Service
Deputy Director, Food Safety Office, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
For over 30 years, Dr. Donald Sharp has been dedicated to preventing disease, both in clinical and applied practice.  Upon becoming a medical doctor in 1977, Dr. Sharp worked almost exclusively in the public sector. Following U.S. Navy service as an Undersea Medical Officer, he spent several years as a family practice physician and worked internationally in areas such as Thailand and Pakistan, all of which afforded him opportunity to treat ailments that included foodborne illness.

Dr. Sharp entered the Commissioned Officer Corp of the United States Public Health Service in 1992, ultimately joining the CDC.  Working in the Field Epidemiology, he began to concentrate in food safety.  He became Deputy Director of the CDC’s Food Safety Office in 2002. He helped lead the CDC’s role in preventing illness, disability and death due to foodborne diseases, including projects that build epidemiology, laboratory and environmental health capacity.  Additionally, he helped build partnerships that informed consumers, healthcare providers and others about the prevention and management of foodborne illness. Dr. Sharp helped assess and build food safety surveillance and outbreak response capacity at the local, state, federal and international levels. As part of the CDC’s Food Safety Office, Dr. Sharp assisted in the production of the Food Safe Schools Action Guide, designed to help school staff make their school food safer. Additionally, Dr. Sharp has been the CDC project officer for the Epi-Ready Foodborne Illness outbreak and response training course, and he heads the CDC support for the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR). His extensive list of publications is only exceeded by his listing of national and international food safety presentations. Anyone involved in foodborne outbreak response in the U.S. has most likely been impacted by a project he has worked on, an article he wrote or a training he influenced.   His leadership has led to significant advances in the way those working in local and state food illness response are trained, and how we handle and communicate about foodborne illness and outbreaks.  He has played a vital role in configuring our key outbreak training programs, and he is one of the most influential food safety professionals of our time.  For his service in helping to prevent foodborne illness and improving global surveillance and outbreak response capacity, NSF is proud to award Dr. Donald Sharp an NSF Food Safety Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award.

NSF Food Safety Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award for Industry and Association Food Safety

Jill Hollingsworth, D.V.M.
Senior Vice President, Food Safety Programs, Food Marketing Institute

Dr. Jill Hollingsworth has dedicated her career to food safety.  Dr. Hollingsworth earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Georgia.  She served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserves as part of the Biomedical Sciences Corps, specializing in biological warfare and food defense.

Dr. Hollingsworth worked at the USDA for 15 years where she managed a wide variety of scientific activities including outbreak investigations and recalls. While at the USDA, she created the first Office of Public Health and Science and served in the Food Safety and Inspection Service as a Deputy Administrator as well as a Special Assistant to the Administrator, providing scientific and technical advice to the Agency and to the Secretary of Agriculture.  She earned a USDA Award of Excellence for her role in investigating E. coli 0157:H7 outbreaks.  Additionally, she worked with the CDC to develop the first FoodNet system for tracking foodborne illness in the United States.

She has been a key driver of food safety programs in Europe, North and South America, as well as Asia.  As Senior Vice President of Food Safety at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Dr. Hollingsworth was one of the original developers of the global food safety and quality certification and management system known as the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI). The program enables certified suppliers to ensure their customers that food has been produced, processed, prepared and handled according to the highest possible standards at all levels of the supply chain.  She also was instrumental in leading the development of the retail food safety training and certification program known as SafeMark for Supermarkets.  Recognizing the role the consuming public plays in overall food safety, Dr. Hollingsworth also has been consistently engaged in many food safety education campaigns.

Dr. Jill Hollingsworth’s commitment to food safety has impacted all levels of industry and has helped lead the way in making the world’s food supply safer and healthier.  For her lifetime commitment to enhancing the safety of the global food supply, NSF is proud to award Dr. Jill Hollingsworth an NSF Food Safety Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Each year, NSF International convenes an independent panel of food safety experts from academia, industry and the regulatory community to select the awardees.  This year’s panel of experts included:

  • Mary M. Adolf, M.S., R.D., Executive Director, International Pizza Hut Franchise Holders Association
  • Ernest Julian, Ph.D., Chief of the Office of Food Protection, Rhode Island Department of Health
  • Ronald S. Klein, Program Manager, Food Safety and Sanitation, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Jim Mann, Founder & Executive Director, The Handwashing For Life Institute
  • Donald Schaffner, Ph.D., Extension Specialist in Food Science, Rutgers University
  • David Theno, Ph.D., CEO, Gray Dog Partners Inc., Food Consulting
  • Ewen C.D. Todd, Ph.D., Director of Food Safety Policy Center, Michigan State University
  • Isabel Walls, Ph.D., President-Elect, IAFP, and National Program Leader, Epidemiology of Food Safety, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA
  • Frank Yiannas, M.P.H., Vice President, Food Safety for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

About NSF International: NSF International, an independent organization, certifies products and writes standards for food, water and consumer goods to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment (nsf.org). Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting human health and safety worldwide and operates in more than 120 countries.  NSF is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment.

NSF’s Food Safety Programs offer a total food safety solution to growers, processors, distributors, retailers and food-service operators, as well as food equipment manufacturers. Services include: NSF Foodservice Equipment certification; food safety and quality auditing and certification through NSF Davis Fresh and NSF Cook & Thurber; Global Food Safety Standards (SQF, BRC, Global Gap, FSSC, IFS, Dutch HACCP); NSF Restaurant and Supermarket Food Safety programs; Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Aquaculture Certification Council (ACC), HACCP validation and inspection through NSF Surefish Seafood Safety; and bottled water/flavored beverage quality certification.

Additional services include Education and Training, drinking water certification and safety audits, management systems registrations (e.g. ISO 14001) delivered through NSF International Strategic Registrations; and sustainable business services through NSF Sustainability.

CONTACT: Greta Houlahan
Phone: 734-913-5723
Email: houlahan@nsf.org